JFK’s Georgetown

John F. Kennedy was one of the greatest orators in American history. But as a single congressman and then senator, his Sunday morning routine in Washington involved food and newspapers and no chit-chat. Each week, the magnetic politician would occupy a tiny, one-person booth called a “rumble seat” (see photo right and video below) at Martin’s Tavern, his favorite restaurant and watering hole in Georgetown, the neighborhood he lived in for nearly 15 years.

JFK liked to have his breakfast alone, poring over the Sunday papers in the rumble seat. He liked Martin’s so much that he asked Jacqueline Bouvier to marry him in the same place; today that booth bears a plaque and the moniker “the proposal booth.” Nearly sixty years after he popped the question in booth three, men from around the D.C. area who want to propose in this historic spot call ahead to reserve the same booth.

Georgetown is D.C.’s most celebrated neighborhood. It was founded in 1751, nearly 40 years before the city of Washington was established, and it remained a thriving, independent town, distinct from D.C., until it was annexed by the city in 1871. The neighborhood has long been a magnet for tourists but sadly many of them just walk up and down M Street, Georgetown’s commercial strip, which is filled with overpriced cupcake shops, chain stores and traffic, both human and vehicular.
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But venture up the hill, north of M Street and you’ll find Georgetown’s real treasure: a grid of quiet streets filled with historic homes built mostly in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. JFK once very accurately called D.C. “a city of “Southern efficiency and Northern hospitality,” but he loved Georgetown. The Kennedys lived, worshipped and played in the neighborhood between 1946, when JFK was elected to the Congress at 29, until 1964, when Jackie moved out, nearly a year after her husband was assassinated.

For a wealthy family, the Kennedys moved often while in D.C., but didn’t stray beyond Georgetown. They lived in nine different homes, ranging from a humble row house to a 7,394 square foot mansion. Today, these homes are worth between $1.2 and $3.8 million dollars. (See gallery for details) The Georgetown Business Improvement District has established a self-guided walking tour that allows visitors to see these homes (now all in private hands and not open to the public). I’ve made some slight modifications to their route and included a stop at Martin’s Tavern.

Even if you have no interest in JFK, the walk, which takes about 90 minutes depending on your pace, provides a great introduction to D.C.’s most iconic and historic neighborhood. Nearly all of the homes on the tour look the same now as they did when the Kennedys lived in them. If you look at this photo of the Kennedys, for example, you can see that their home at 3307 N Street, looked the same then as it did now.

And this video of Jackie and the kids moving into a home at 3038 N Street after JFK was assassinated will give you an idea of what this stately home looked like in 1963. Even today, the house has a bit of a somber look to it.

According to The Washingtonian, JFK was a foodie before his time who favored French cuisine. But other than Martin’s, his other dining haunts are all long gone. That said, he is still remembered as the man who revolutionized drinking in D.C. In 1962, Kennedy signed a bill that repealed the city’s archaic drinking regulations, which mandated that bar patrons drinking beer or wine be seated on a stool and those drinking liquor be seated at a table.

JFK was back in the news earlier this month when Mimi Alford, a 69 year-old woman who interned at the White House, published a book claiming that she had an 18-month affair with JFK that began when she was 17. The revelation that Kennedy was a playboy isn’t front page news, but he was also a devout Catholic, and you can visit Holy Trinity Church, founded in 1792 as the city’s first Catholic church, where he and his family worshipped. It’s a small, square room with no confession booths.

The 11 stop JFK in Georgetown self-guided walking tour: (see slideshow for details on each stop)

1. 3260 N Street, NW
2. 3307 N Street, NW
3. 3513 N Street, NW
4. 1400 34th Street, NW
5. 3271 P Street, NW
6. 3321 Dent Place, NW (just north of Q Street, between 33rd and 34th)
7. 1528 31st Street, NW
8. 2808 P Street, NW
9. 3038 N Street, NW
10. 3017 N Street, NW
11. 1264 Wisconsin Ave, NW

TripAdvisor launches free Mobile City Guide apps for Android users

TripAdvisor launches new free smartphone app for travelersOn Tuesday, October 11, 2011, TripAdvisor launched their free Mobile City Guide apps for Android users. The apps cover twenty popular destinations, some of which include Paris, New York, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and London.

Benefits of using the app include:

  • Reviews of restaurants, hotels, and attractions
  • Suggested city itineraries
  • Interactive walking tours
  • Historical and cultural information on a destination
  • Weather reports
  • Transportation options

One great thing about this app is that the information is given to you in real-time, so everything you read is current and up-to-date. Also, information from the app can be accessed whether the user has a data connection or is offline.

Says Adam Medros, vice president of global product at TripAdvisor, “We think travelers are going to love the comprehensive information our free Mobile City Guides provide in popular world cities. A tremendous complement to our popular TripAdvisor site app, these guides offer even more city detail, including itineraries and interactive walking tours.”

Where are all the travel guide apps for Android?

travel guide apps for AndroidNearly two years ago, I bought my first smartphone: the T-Mobile Android MyTouch*. I’m only occasionally jealous of my iPhone-carrying friends, as I find few travel guide apps for Android. Even after a move to Istanbul, I still use and rely upon it daily; Android‘s interface is fast and easy-to-use, and seamless use of Google applications like Gmail and Google Maps is part of the reason I bought it in the first place. Living in a foreign country means English-language books and magazines are expensive and hard-to-find, and like many travelers, I don’t want to carry bulky books around when I’m on the road. This leaves a perfect opportunity for mobile developers to provide real travel guide content and not just travel-booking apps, especially apps produced by reliable media sources with professional editorial. These days, every guidebook and travel magazine publisher is coming out with apps for the iPhone and now iPad, supplying users with content and directions on the go, but there are hardly any for Android.

So what’s available for mobile travelers from the top travel book and print sources? Better hope you’re running Apple OS…Guidebooks:

  • Fodor’s: Happy 75th Birthday Mr. Fodor, but we wish you had more than just five city guides for purchase (in London, New York, Paris, Rome, and San Francisco) and only for Apple.
  • Frommer’s: iPhone guides are available for ten major cities in the US, Europe and Asia, but nada for Android.
  • Lonely Planet: iPhone users are spoiled for choice: dozens of city guides, language phrasebooks, audio walking tours, and eBooks optimized for the iPad. Android users in 32 countries including the US are in luck: there’s a free Trippy app to organize itinerary items, as well as 25 “augmented reality” Compass city guides and 14 phrasebooks. NOTE: This article originally mentioned that the Compass guides were unavailable in the Android Market store, but they should work for most US users. I happen to be in a country where paid apps are not available and not shown in the Market.
  • LUXE City Guides: 20 cheeky city guides work for a variety of mobile phones, including iPhone and Blackberry, but none are compatible with my Android. Bonus: the apps come with free regular updates and maps that the paper guides don’t have.
  • Rick Steves: If you are headed to Europe, you can get audio guides for many big attractions and historic walks for iPhone, plus maps for the iPad. You can also download the audio files free for your computer, and props to Rick for mentioning that Android apps are at least in development.
  • Rough Guides: Here’s a new one: the Rough Guides app works for many phones but NOT the iPhone OR Android! It’s not as slick as some of the other guides (it’s a Java app) and you will use data to use it on the road, but it provides lots of info for many cities in Europe. You can also find a Rough Guides photo app on iTunes to view pictures from around the world with Google Maps and captions from Rough Guides.
  • Time Out: City travelers and residents might want to look at the apps from Time Out for 5 European cities and Buenos Aires, with Manchester and New York on the way. More cities are available for free on iTunes, search for Time Out on iTunes to see what’s available. iPhone only.
  • Wallpaper* City Guides: 10 of the design mag’s 80 city guides are for sale for iPhone for Europe, Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles.

Print media:

  • Conde Nast Traveler: It makes sense for magazines to embrace the iPad, and CNT has free Apple apps specifically for Italy, cruises, and their annual Gold List of hotels and resorts. Blackberry users can download an etiquette guide, but Android users are snubbed.
  • National Geographic: As befitting any explorer, Nat Geo has a world atlas, national parks maps, and games featuring their amazing photography, all for iPhone. A special interactive edition of National Geographic Traveler is for sale on the iPad; you can also read it on your computer. Androids can download a quiz game and various wallpapers; and all mobile users can access a mobile-friendly version of their website at natgeomobile.com.
  • Outside: Adventure travelers can purchase and read full issues on the iPad, but no subscription option yet.
  • Travel + Leisure: The other big travel glossy also has an iPad app for special issues. Four issues have been released so far with one available now on iTunes (romantic getaways) but future editions will follow to be read on the app. Just in time for spring break and summer, they’ve also released a Travel + Leisure Family app with advice and articles specifically geared towards travel and families. The apps are both free but you’ll need an iPad – these are designed for tablets, not phones. You can also read full issues of T+L and their foodie cousin Food & Wine on Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Color ereader; you can save per issue if you subscribe to the e-reader version.
  • USA Today Travel: Most major newspapers have mobile readers for all types of phones, but USA Today is the only one with their own travel-specific app. AutoPilot combines an array of cool travel booking capabilities and information with articles and blog post from the newspaper. Only iPhone users can enjoy free.

Two of our favorite magazines, Budget Travel and Afar, have no mobile apps yet but great online communities to tap into their extensive knowledge.

All in all, other than Lonely Planet’s Compass guides, a pretty weak showing for Android travelers. While iPhone has been around longer as a mobile platform that Android, they’ve lost the market share of users to the little green robot. As Android is available on a variety of phone manufacturers and providers, expect that number to continue to grow, along with the variety and depth of content for mobile and tablet users. Will the developers ever catch up or will travelers have to choose?

*Android has not endorsed this or paid me anything to write about them. But to show I’m not biased – Apple, feel free to send me a sample phone and I’ll test out the apps!

Photo courtesy Flickr user closari. Special thanks to Sean O’Neill, who blogs on Budget Travel and the new BBC Travel blog.

Battle of the bulge: Breeding season starts soon for elephant seals at Año Nuevo

Pull up a chair and start placing your bets — it’s about to get ugly.

No, really, the elephant seals will be gathering soon at Año Nuevo State Park in California for their breeding season. (And have you seen one before?) All nose and gut, the males vie for alpha male status, bellowing their complaints and battling it out by throwing their chests against each other.

They make the Central California coast their home from December to March, and visitors can take a guided tour to see the breeding colony up close — from the first arrival of the males to the final departure of the pups.

Año Nuevo is the world’s largest mainland breeding colony of the northern elephant seal. But back in 1892, fewer than 100 elephant seals existed anywhere because of hunting. Now, thanks to legislation first implemented in Mexico and then the US, they are more protected. Their numbers have increased to about 150,000 — many of them come to Año Nuevo annually.

Advance reservations are recommended for the 2.5-hour walking tours, which run December 15-March 31. First, read the FAQs about the walks, then book your reservation either by phone (650-879-2033) or online. The admission price is $7.00 per person (free for children 3 and younger).

Año Nuevo is located along Highway 1, just 20 miles north of Santa Cruz. Another elephant seal spot is farther south on Highway 1 at Piedras Blancas (7 miles south of San Simeon), which is home to about 15,000 elephant seals. No admission fee or reservation is required there.

Last Chance to Get to Greenland on the Cheap

Okay, it’s not at the top of many people’s travel lists. Who thinks about Greeland? Well, I do, and I’ve wanted to go for a while. Hurtigruten is pretty sympathetic to this fact and has a new deal that makes it pretty easy to get it to one of the most remote destinations in the world … but, you have to act fast. This deal expires on August 31, 2009, and space is limited.

Hurtigruten’s new ship, MS Fram, has 318 berths and takes its guests around a seascape that hasn’t changed in 5,000 years. On land, much is frozen in time as well, with Hurtigruten’s passengers able to move among villages that have seen little of what the rest of the world would call progress. Eqip Sermia Glacier, icebergs in Disko Bay and Jakobshavn Ice Fjord (a World Heritage Site) are on the itinerary, as well as guided walking tours of Inuit towns, such as Qeqertarsuaq, Ukkusissat, Itelleq and Ilulissat.

Curious about the deals? Check them out after the jump.

“Three Countries – One Deluxe Ship” – a At a savings of 64 percent to 67 percent ($8,667 to $13,117 in savings), the voyage starts in a European country and ends in New York (by way of Canada). Along the way, you’ll explore one of the world’s most remote destinations (Greenland), and guests on the 18-day voyage aboard the MS Fram are treated to a unique historical perspective as they are joined by Benedicte Ingstad, the daughter of the famed explorer Helge Ingstad. Ms. Ingstad joined her parents, Anne Stine and Helge, on their expedition to L’anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland in 1960, where they discovered and excavated what is believed to be the “Vinland settlement” of Leif Eriksson from around AD 1000 – 500 years before the Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of North America. Other highlights include visits to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: L’anse Aux Meadows, Red Bay (provisional World Heritage list) and Gros Morne National Park. The September 22 departure ranges from $4,249 to $7,249 and include flights from New York/Newark, one night hotel in Copenhagen.

“25% Off + 2 Hotel Nights” – This deal results in a cost savings of $1,990 to $5,745 per person and comes with a pretty hefty perk: two free hotel nights in Copenhagen, Denmark. Guests will have a chance to poke around the medieval city. And, the stop in Denmark stretches the 8- and 15-day Greenland sailings into 10- and 17-day vacations. The reduced prices for the four August and September departures are $4,597 to $15,862 per person.

“Go Solo And Save” – Interested in checking out Greenland on your own? Solo travelers can pay the same rate as if they were sharing a cabin, a savings that can reach 47 percent ($3,065 to $19,034 off brochure prices). Single passenger prices are $6,129 to $21,149.